Where did it all go wrong?

Synopsis : Why was the summer 2023 honey crop so poor (at least here in Scotland) after a bumper Spring harvest, and what could or should I have done instead? Where did it all go wrong?


Last weekend effectively marked the end of the worst summer season I’ve ever had since starting beekeeping.

At least when measured by honey yield.

Lots of other things went OK and some things went very well, but one of the reasons I keep bees is for honey production and that’s been an abject failure this summer.

I’ve yet to extract – and briefly considered leaving it all for the bees – but am pretty confident that it’s ~25 kg less than 2022.

That’s per hive 🙁 .

That’s a shortfall of over 200 kg from about the same number of production colonies.

I’ve ended up with just half a dozen supers, and not all of them are full.

Another one for the extractor ...

Hello stranger, where were you in summer ’23?

I’m pretty certain I got more full supers in my very first year when I had just two hives … though this was helped by 30 acres of field beans just over the apiary fence.

Location, location, location 😉 .

So what went wrong?

How did this season differ from last season?

And, before I start, it’s not that 2023 was average and 2022 was freakishly good. Since returning to Scotland in 2015 the spring and summer honey crops have been reasonably consistent … and generally pretty good.

2022 was a little better than average and 2019 was appreciably worse, but all of them produced enough honey to make extracting (and the interminable cleaning up, jarring, labelling etc. afterwards) very worthwhile.

2023 is the outlier.

Why didn’t I leave the honey for the bees? Because I treat with Apivar and I’d prefer not to have to melt out the super frames that were exposed to miticide.

So, comparing this year with 2022 (and some earlier years), where did it all go wrong?

What hasn’t changed

One thing that hasn’t changed is the location, location, location.

The bees are in the same apiaries, spread across 10-15 miles of eastern Fife. All the apiaries were poor this summer, so I’m pretty certain it’s not a very localised change to the available forage.

My summer honey is what I’d describe as ‘mixed floral’ or ‘hedgerow’ honey. It’s a clear, runny honey which – in good years – has a distinctive zingy flavour from the lime. However, it’s anything but monofloral, and contains all sorts of stuff available in the environment.

Summer honey

What it probably isn’t – at least to any significant degree – is dependent on local agriculture. One farmer occasionally grows some field beans but they’re usually at the upper limit of foraging range. I’ve not seen any since 2020 or 2021.

The apiaries are situated in mixed farmland with lots of field margins, small copses, scrubby grazing and – in one instance – suburban gardens within range. The latter apiary tends to do a little better most years.

North Fife hills, early June 2017

All the apiaries have access to oil seed rape early in the season. This gives the colonies a great boost and makes subsequent swarming relatively predictable.

The 2023 spring honey crop was outstanding.

Eventually 😉 .

Spring was late and it was only in the last couple of weeks of the OSR that it was warm enough for a real foraging bonanza. However, it all came good at the end and I finished with a record harvest which was taken off in the first week of June.

So, if the forage hasn’t changed then it must be the weather … right?

Local weather reports

My reference a couple of weeks ago to weather forecasting – and the subsequent helpful follow up comments from readers – was prompted by a need for accurate local predictions.

Local, because weather is local.

Here on the west coast the hills are low. Moisture-laden air bowling in from the Atlantic often blows over us, gets forced up by the bulk of Grampians, cools and then falls as rain.

Lots of it.

On the east coast, a few times a year, the haar drifts in off the North Sea. My coastal apiary can be a shivery 12°C when, just a few miles inland, it’s a balmy 20°C.

So, if local weather forecasts are needed, then a retrospective review of the impact of weather on honey yields needs local weather records. The gold standard are probably the HadUK datasets available for the UK under an Open Government Licence. They contain interpolated data on daily rainfall, temperatures, sunshine, humidity etc at a 1 km grid resolution 1.

May 2023 rainfall anomaly with 1991-2010

Regular readers will (although they might not realise it) be familiar with these datasets. These are the ones used to generate the Met Office UK actual and anomaly weather maps which regularly appear here. The map above shows May 2023’s rainfall anomaly; North Wales and the West coast of Scotland ‘enjoyed’ ~70% less rain than the 30 year average.

But there’s a problem with the HadUK datasets … they are not publicly available for the current year 2.

Personal weather stations

But, all is not lost.

There are a rash 3 of personal weather stations in the gardens and on the roofs of weather enthusiasts, techie geeks, balloonists, surfers, kite flyers, gardeners … and beekeepers.

Personal weather stations in North Wales (Wunderground)

Some of these are isolated, stand-alone, units. They’re not much use to anyone but the owner/operator 4.

However, others share the data online, either directly via a web server or indirectly after uploading it to an internet weather service such as Wunderground or Windy.

From these you can get fancy graphical outputs for current or historical weather … or, by burrowing around a bit on the page, turgid tables of neatly aligned numbers that can be downloaded for analysis.

Dull, dull, dull … but useful

If you find one that’s local to your apiary do a little sanity-checking of the figures. Make sure the station is routinely online, that the data updates regularly and that the numbers seem logical (e.g. no -3°C in June). Unless the station is extremely well situated the windspeed and direction will be wrong 5, but rainfall, temperature and potentially sunshine (radiation) should be reliable.

Wunderground graphics

I have one of these weather stations on my shed for my ”Do queens really need calm, sunny days and temperatures over 20°C for mating?” project 6. However, it’s 150 miles from my Fife apiaries, so hardly local.

Fortunately, in Fife there’s one in the next village that, with the exception of the summer of 2021, has been running for years and seems very dependable. All subsequent graphs are based on data from there.

Highs and lows

Comparison of the temperature maximum and minimum over the ~3.5 months from the start of May until the third week in August when the summer honey was taken off shows no major variation.

Temperature highs and lows in 2022 (blue) and 2023 (red) – click on this and subsequent graphs for larger versions.

The graph above shows the maximum (thick lines) and minimum (thin lines) temperatures in 2022 (blue) and 2023 (red). May and July are shaded so you can work out where you are in the season. I’ve used a similar layout for subsequent graphs.

It certainly doesn’t look as though 2023 was unseasonably cool or – perhaps with that week in mid-June 7 – particularly hot.

But just looking at the highs and lows could result in missing significant variation in the average daily temperatures … so I plotted that together with the rainfall over the same period.

Average temperatures and daily rainfall

I’ve separated the 2022 and 2023 graphs this time to stop them getting too busy. Again the period displayed is the same. I’ve also marked – with arrows – the dates on which the spring and summer honey were taken off.

Remember, the spring harvest in 2023 was my best from Scotland, about 10% more than 2022 from slightly fewer colonies.

Average temperature and daily rainfall in 2022 (blue) and 2023 (red)

I don’t think there’s much to deduce from the temperatures (the line graphs). You can see the cool first week of May (which I was complaining about at the time), but it picked up by about the middle of the month. June was a bit warmer this year, but July was appreciably cooler than 2022.

However, the striking feature is probably not the temperature, it’s the rainfall (shown in the bar graph, plotted against the right hand vertical axis).

In 2023 there was almost no rain from about the 8th of May until the 19th of June. At the time I was more worried about the burn 8 that supplies our water drying up, but in retrospect this five week period will have had a profound effect on the moisture available in the soil for plant growth.

Cumulative rainfall (and monthly totals) in 2022 (blue) and 2023 (red)

The difference between the two years is even more apparent in a graph of cumulative rainfall over the period. Although the final total is broadly similar (differing by only ~20%) 2023 essentially flatlines until mid-June and then rises much more steeply than 2022 until mid-July, from which point the slopes are similar.

Five weeks of drought in 2023 were followed by a month of wet weather, consequently also suppressing the average temperature.

More years, more data

How do 2022 and 2023 compare with earlier years for which I have summer honey records?

Other than 2021 (where the weather station had a major hiccup) there are good datasets for every year since 2013.

I’ve plotted the last 5 years as that’s as far back as I can find the cumulative honey yields 9. Of these, 2019 was poor, both for spring and summer honey.

Here’s the cumulative rainfall for each of those seasons (May to mid-August, as before).

Cumulative rainfall over 5 years – May to mid-August

Although it takes a little teasing apart, 2023 is clearly unusual in the protracted drought in late Spring/early summer. Even 2018 (yellow), the driest year overall, is only fractionally behind 2023 at the end of June (and finishes the period with 30% less rain by August).

The other thing that is striking is just how wet 2023 was from mid-June until mid-July. 150 mm of rain fell in the four weeks from 17/6/23. The red line rises more steeply over this period than any of the previous years, and at the end of this four week deluge is actually the wettest year of the five plotted.

However, rain alone isn’t necessarily a problem.

Most of the summer nectar flow probably occurs from mid-July until early/mid-August. During this period both 2019 (a poor year overall, but not catastrophic 10 ) and 2020 had more rainfall, and 2020 at least produced a lot of summer honey.

Not enough bees?

The majority of my colonies were requeened in 2023. Although the overall number of colonies are too small to draw any conclusions it was notable that the hive that produced the most honey 11 still has the queen from last year and showed no tendency to swarm.

Requeening colonies, using normal swarm control strategies, enforces a break in brood rearing.

I therefore checked back through my hive records to see if colonies had longer broodless periods in 2023 than 2022. All other things being equal e.g. prior strength or the subsequent laying rate of the new queen, a colony which experiences a longer brood break is likely to be weaker.

If the colony is short of workers during the main nectar flow it is likely to gather less honey.

Hive records

This is an even more approximate activity than looking at the weather records. My hive records are pretty good, but they are (obviously) only at weekly intervals. Furthermore, when I know a colony contains a new queen I tend not to rummage through the brood box unless really necessary (and if there’s a new queen in there it isn’t … so don’t 😉 ). Consequently, although I can identify broodless periods from my records, the precise duration (and therefore potential impact on colony strength) is, at best, vague.

However, if anything, queen mating was both more dependable and faster in 2023 than last year. Most queens were mated and laying by early/mid-June. I appreciate that it still takes ~6 weeks from the queen starting laying until her foragers are flying, but the speed with which queens were mated meant that worker numbers should not have become too depleted.

No shortage of bees

I’m going to spend a bit more time on this in the winter aided by coffee or red wine 12 to see if I’m missing something, but I currently think there were more than enough bees in the honey (non)production hives.

Nectar production and rainfall

I don’t have a definitive answer to the title of this post (Where did it all go wrong?) but it seems likely it’s due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • protracted (~5 weeks) drought in late May and early/mid June. This didn’t apparently affect the nectar yields from the OSR, but could have had long-term consequences for the summer flowering forage.
  • unusually wet weather from mid June to mid July
  • reduced temperatures during July (negatively influencing either or both the bees and the forage) where the average, low and high temperatures for 2022 were 17°C, 7.4°C and 33.2°C, and for 2023 were 15°C, 5.7°C and 24.3°C

The July rainfall will have suppressed the temperature, but the second half of the month was also cooler than normal.

I’ve done some reading on the impact of moisture on nectar production. There’s quite a bit on the influence of humidity on both nectar production and the sugar concentration of the nectar, but these are all short term effects.

Recent rainfall is known to stimulate nectar production in plants such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis; Keasar et al., 2008) but I’ve yet to find much on stimulatory effects of rainfall over a longer period.

If your bees have finished for the year and you want some winter reading perhaps try Lawson and Rands’ (2019) review of rainfall on plant-pollinator interactions. In particular they highlight that rainfall can dilute nectar, making it less rewarding for (at least some) pollinators. Rainfall, and lower temperatures, also significantly reduce foraging activity (and, to my surprise, nurse bee activity within the hive; Riessberger and Crailsheim, 1997).

I think this is a topic I’ll have to return to …

Does any of this help?

Possibly not.

Other than the satisfaction of knowing having a vague idea what went wrong, since it was probably poor weather there’s not a lot that could be done to avoid the situation, other than moving to another county … or country … or continent.

But, assuming it was the weather and if there was reliable long-range (i.e. ~2 months or more) weather forecasting I can think of other ways to productively ‘rescue’ the latter half of the season.

You could – as suggested above – move your bees.

That’s easier said than done, involves lots of work/travel and probably also requires reliable long-range local weather forecasts … but hey, “if you’re gonna dream, dream big” 😉 .

Alternatively, you could make bees, not honey.

Had I known that the second half of this season was going to be total pants I’d have completely abandoned honey production and instead split the colonies to produce many more nucs for overwintering.

With a concerted effort during the good weather in May/June it would have been relatively straightforward to get sufficient queens mated. The soon-to-be-unemployed honey production colonies could be split, each producing several nucs.

Inevitably this would then involve a bit of frame juggling to ensure the nucs didn’t get ‘overcooked’ before the onset of autumn, that extra work being compensated by the ability to produce more nucs from harder initial splits of the colonies.

Or you could do something for the bees, such as using queen trapping to enforce a brood break, apply a midseason miticide treatment and have the satisfaction of them going into autumn with very low mite and virus levels.

The same thing could be achieved, coupled with a full box of new comb, by combining a shook swarm and miticide treatment.

The end is nigh

The removal of the summer honey marks the end of the practical beekeeping season for me. Having cleared the supers 13 I checked the frames. There was a small amount of fresh nectar in a few of them, though nothing like enough to justify leaving them for another week or two.

Not so much a nectar flow as a pathetic dribble.

Winter stores … ready and waiting

Brood boxes were looking very ‘end of season’. Almost no drone brood 14 and most of the drone comb was backfilled with nectar or sealed stores.

I failed to find the one queen I had yet to mark 15 so she and I will have that to look forward to next April.

I didn’t inspect the colonies but I did pull a few frames to work out where the edge of the brood nest was so I could place the Apivar strips correctly.

Then all that was left to do was to replace the queen excluder and add a split block of fondant, with either an empty super (Of which I have a surfeit 🙁 ) or an eke and an inverted perspex crownboard to provide ‘headspace’ for the block.

Adios bees … I’ll be back in a few weeks to reposition the Apivar 🙂 .


This is not the place for a long discussion about the economics of beekeeping here. In terms of sales, one super (assume ~10 kg of extracted honey) is worth about the same as an overwintered nuc. My suggestion to ‘make bees’ instead of honey achieves three things:

  • offset ‘losses’ from honey sales by selling nucs
  • repopulate (and/or expand) your own apiaries with strong nucs next spring
  • provide local bees for beekeepers, rather than them relying on imports

With a conservative 3- or even 4-way split of a midsummer production colony all of the above should be achievable … if you know how to rear queens and have enough nuc boxes 😉 .


Keasar, T., Sadeh, A., and Shmida, A. (2008) Variability in nectar production and standing crop, and their relation to pollinator visits in a Mediterranean shrub. Arthropod-Plant Interactions 2: 117–123 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11829-008-9040-9.

Lawson, D.A., and Rands, S.A. (2019) The effects of rainfall on plant–pollinator interactions. Arthropod-Plant Interactions 13: 561–569 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11829-019-09686-z.

Riessberger, U., and Crailsheim, K. (1997) Short-term effect of different weather conditions upon the behaviour of forager and nurse honey bees (Apis mellifera carnica Pollmann). Apidologie 28: 411–426 http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/apido:19970608.


  1. Other resolutions are available, but we’re talking local and that’s about as local as it gets.
  2. At least as far a I can tell … I bet they are for a fee though. They have predictive value for agronomists.
  3. Shower? What’s the collective noun for weather stations?
  4. Where’s the fun in that?
  5. You need lots of space to get these recorded accurately.
  6. Long story short … no.
  7. Or ’summer’ as we like to call it.
  8. On the west coast.
  9. And I don’t have the time or energy to look through the older numbers and work out the exact hive numbers I had each summer.
  10. Unlike 2023, no need to sell any organs, or force the kids into indentured service.
  11. A relative term, it was still pathetic.
  12. Depending whether it’s early or late in the day … or perhaps before or after lunch.
  13. Some were already vacant!
  14. The only hive with sealed drone brood was headed by a pure native black queen.
  15. Though, to be honest, it was a pretty cursory search by a demoralised and honey-less beekeeper.

29 thoughts on “Where did it all go wrong?

  1. Kevin O'Neill

    Glad I’m not the only one !
    So wet in July here in East Yorkshire my summer crop is negligible

    1. David Post author

      Hi Kevin

      Here’s July’s anomaly chart to show just how wet some parts of the country were.

      July anomaly rainfall

      If you can work out where Fife is on that map you’ll see that it wasn’t actually that wet … but it did have more rainy days than usual, so I guess it’s the timing of the rainfall that put paid to the honey.

      Onward and upward … next year must be better 😉


  2. Steve Donohoe

    Sorry to hear about your poor harvest this summer. I made more honey in summer than spring, but less per hive. My summer harvest per hive was 90% of spring, so I suppose I should be grateful. Given that everything keeps getting more expensive (apart from honey) there are going to be some bee farmer casualties if this keeps up.

    I’m ramping up nuc production as there still seems to be a stream of optimistic beginners every year who want to try beekeeping. They need to be strong because wasps here are pretty bad.

    Best wishes

    1. David Post author

      Hi Steve

      Until this year my summer crop has been 45-110% of my Spring and it seems a lot more variable. There’s a glimmer of hope from the heather (but just a glimmer) so I might be able to produce a bit of blended heather mix which is rather tasty :). I know some have been complaining about honey prices being static, ironically not helped by the glut last season, but I’ve increased my prices by ~15% having been nearly bankrupted following delivery of a pallet of jars! The shops just pass the costs on and customers are almost expecting to pay more for everything these days.

      Weirdly there’s barely a wasp here or on the east coast. Some years are awful, but there were just a couple buzzing around the apiary last weekend as I took the supers off. Barely any need to cover them … not least because they were empty 🙁


  3. Richard Searle

    Thank you for putting the scientific meat of the bones for this peculiar season. I suspect every season to be peculiar in some way or other, as climate break down continues apace

    We had a late start here in the Upper Calder Valley, but then Spring build up went off like a rocket, to such an extent, that our Nucleus swarm control required…well err yet more Nucleus swarm control !

    We extracted just over 100lbs off four supers, so in anticipation a bumper summer harvest, we invested in extra supers, labels, jars, but the rains came in July and didn’t stop, and the temperature dropped and didn’t move.

    The irony being that myself & partner spent the last week of July in Shetland, where apart from one day , the weather was glorious

    So on the plus side we have 16 supers or so, of perfectly drawn super comb ready for next season

    However, there is one plant that has done really well this summer around here, which is the Himalayan Balsam. With its feet firmly planted in the rain soaked soil its grown really high and in massive stands

    Observing the Bees flying into the hive entrances is like watching a stream of winged snowballs. I have never seen the pollen dusting from the Balsam so profuse as this year

    The up side of this bounty means that Bees are piling on the winter stores in massive quantities, and for free. so I would be very surprised if there was any need for additional feeding

    Its at moments like this that I draw comfort from the profound observation of Mr Jagger and Mr Richards, in that “you can’t always get what you want, but you can get what you need”

    1. David Post author

      Hi Richard

      Good news about the drawn comb and Shetland. It can be glorious in Scotland and – at least in my view – the good days are so good that they compensate for the fact it can be a bit damp at other times.

      Balsam is a great late season nectar source. It has the highest nectar production per flower of any plant in the UK. However, it’s also a terrible invasive weed and chokes waterways, smothering everything else. I used to fish quite a bit and it made some parts of the Monnow catchment on the Welsh borders totally impassable. It is shallow rooted, so when it dies back in winter the roots provide almost no protection leading to significant erosion problems.

      So, great for the bees, but a bit of a nightmare for the environment!


  4. Martyn Williams

    Here on Dartmoor we had a very similar pattern. An amazing hawthorn bloom and crop, and then almost nothing in the summer. The weather pattern was similar to the article.
    In terms of weather reasons, I wonder if it’s not just the rainfall but the absence of sunshine? It’s felt dark, not just wet, and dark even when not raining through Jul and Aug.

    1. David Post author

      Hello Martyn

      Some personal weather stations will also measure radiation (mine does) but not all of the weather sites (like Wunderground) can deal with that data so it may not be available. The HadUK datasets have ‘sunshine duration’ but only for monthly or seasonal granularity. However, the Met Office anomaly charts do plot sunshine, actual and anomaly – here’s July this year showing variation from the 30 year average:

      Hello sunshine

      Much of England and Wales had less sunshine this July, with Wales and the West country being particularly dull (as you suggest). August data isn’t available online yet.


  5. Tracey Mackenzie

    I’m on Exmoor, I have 3 hives & a nuc going into autumn.
    I had one hive swarm & gained a swarm in my other empty hive. So my main hive has been my main honey source, 45lb of spring honey taken late May, plenty of stores left for the June gap that never happened.
    This is the 1st year I have taken honey off that early but also a first for many, many fields of osr.
    3 weeks ago all 3 hives had 2 supers on not far off ready to take one for me & leave one on for the bees but this weekend 2 hives, both pretty strong, needed feeding.
    No signs of robbing, I’m not seeing many wasps/hornets. The main hive is really strong, all of them flying well & flight path indicates they’re on the heather.
    It’s been an odd year for our bees, weather all over the place, variations on forage but best behaved bees for a good while. I have zeroed my expectations & have become more organised because every inspection is a magical mystery tour 🐝 😄

    1. David Post author

      Hi Tracey

      ‘Magical mystery tour’ is a nice description. I’ve usually got a pretty good idea of what I’m expecting when I open one of my hives. Over the years my notes have become better (and briefer) and I think I’m better attuned to what the bees are doing. However, every now and then they throw me a curve ball and I stand there scratching my head … or giving up in disgust, closing up the hive and thinking it over with a cuppa.

      The weather has been odd, the June gap appears to have been almost non-existent pretty much everywhere and some trees (like the hawthorn mentioned by Martyn in these comments) and blackberry have flowered really well. The lime was hopeless, at least where my bees could reach it, and everything at this end of the season either happened very fast and then stopped, or never started at all.

      And all that’s before I even start thinking about the long-term consequences of climate change, such as early flowering etc. which I’ll discuss in detail sometime in the future.

      ‘Best behaved bees’ is perhaps slight recompense for a topsy turvy year 🙂


  6. Keith Taylor

    I have had a very similar ‘game of two halves’ this year. A great spring and a dismal summer. The data is very helpful – I had recently been looking for something like this to console me that it wasn’t entirely down to my ineptitude. You make a very good point that it is the timing of rainfall that might be as important as the total volume. A few weeks, mid nectar flow, with rainy nights and warm dry days is SO much better for foraging than the same period of constant daily drizzle – even though the total volume of rain might be similar.
    I wonder if someone had given me a long range weather forecast in May whether I would really have changed my plans though? The trouble is, many of us beekeepers are cursed with optimism – or else we would have given up long ago! We all look at the 90% chance of rain for the next week and choose to believe that the forecast might just be wrong this time.
    Speaking of optimism, there must be a very high statistical probability that next summer will be significantly better for honey than this one!

    1. David Post author

      Hi Keith

      Most of the weather data I’ve seen does not record the timing of daily rainfall. My machine does, but only transiently. It discards this bit of data in all the compiled outputs I’ve seen. However, it’s likely the data is still buried somewhere in the database, but that’s likely only to be accessible to the weather station owner. If I’m short of winter projects I’ll try and contact the owner of the weather station I usually rely upon and see if the data is accessible … in which case it would be relatively trivial to determine whether July/August last year (with a bumper harvest) differed in the timing of the rainfall, despite the overall amounts being similar.

      I’m not going to risk making (more of) a fool of myself by discussing the statistical likelihood of 2024 being a good year. My experience suggests 1 in 4 are ‘good’ and, if we ignore El Niño and assume that the weather one year does not impact the weather in subsequent years, this suggests that there’s a 1 in 4 chance next year will be good.

      But a 1 in 3 chance it will be average or worse 😉


  7. David Woodhouse

    My 2023 experience closely mirrors yours down here in North Yorkshire and I’ve reconciled myself to have harvesting no honey from the bees’ July and August foraging efforts except for those hives that I took up to the North York moors at the end of July. I’ve already got two full supers of heather honey per hive after 4 weeks and have added a third super to each – shaping up to be my best crop of ever. As is said, it’s an ill wind that blows no good.

    1. David Post author

      Hi David

      One of the beefarmers was saying that the high moorland was yielding this year when it usually did not, with the lower moors being patchy or poor. My hives with access to the heather won’t be getting 3 supers, and some won’t fill one … but there might be some.

      Fingers crossed!

  8. Claire M

    As a professional statistician and a beekeeper, I just wanted to say how refreshing it is to see you using data to test some theories, and also acknowledging the strengths and limitations of your data sources and methods. Great insights, and I know it must have taken you some considerable effort to obtain them, thank you.

    1. David Post author

      Hello Claire

      I’ve done a bit of science in the past so am reasonably familiar with dependable (or not, see my publications 😉 ) data. However, I’m usually all at sea once the stats start to be discussed …

      I might well be returning to temperatures again next week as they are important in some miticide treatments. If I don’t it’s because I’m busy harvesting the first 30 supers of heather honey … and it’s a statistical certainty that won’t be happening 🙂

      Thanks for the comment (and be gentle with me if I get my two-way ANOVA’s mixed up with my student t tests 😉 ).


  9. Martin Booth

    I’ve only got 3 hives at the bottom of the garden, and the honey is just for the kids to have on toast or porridge. I had so much honey last year that I gave probably 30kg away at the start of the year to make space for this years crop. I checked the supers a couple of weeks ago and I have less now than I did at the end of May, it’s been so very wet. I still have the supers on, I’m thinking about extracting next weekend, but the kids knocked over my extractor last year so the gubbins doesn’t spin due to a dent in the front… so that needs fixing. TBH I’m just wondering if it’s worth the effort… I think I’ll take the frames off next weekend and put the apivar on and extract later. It’s been a rubbish year in Derbyshire

    1. David Post author

      Oh dear … another tale of woe, compounded by a dinged extractor. Your 30 kg of honey would probably have been just as delicious now as it was then so I’d have stored it carefully in filled buckets in a cool place. Aside from the hundreds of slices of toast and thousands of bowls of porridge it could have enhanced, it was probably worth about £600 if sold through a suitable outlet (after jar and labelling costs, but your time is ‘free’ 😉 ).

      Don’t leave the Apivar too late or the winter bees will get hammered by the mites. Mine went in on Monday and so I should finish treatment by the end of October.


  10. Joe

    I’ve not gone and looked it up, but I seem to remember the BBKA saying that average honey yield per hive is less than 15kg, so some of the figures quoted here are up at commercial yields

    I had about 9kg per hive for both the spring and summer crop, so I still beat that average by a few kg’s, although nowhere near last years yield of a little under 30kg per hive. My 7 hives hives are in Aberdeenshire, so slightly better conditions than in Fife this year, though still below average, and I don’t take the bees to the heather, so it’s all mixed blossom/hedgerow/lime (lots of that close by, although your observation of this years bloom was similar to mine) etc.

    I know osr bumps the numbers for most, but I personally dislike it as to me it simply tastes like runny sugar and barely better than the £1 honey from Aldi, so I simply don’t sell it (this is of course personal preference). I’ve had a couple of years where I had some fields of osr close by, so used the spring crop either as sugar substitute when baking or left unextracted for overwintering.

    It will be interesting to see BBKA stats for this year.

    1. David Post author

      Hi Joe

      Be careful trusting the BBKA stats … it’s all self-reported and I’m not sure any of it is validated. I’ve quoted from the BBKA surveys before and guesstimated that the average is ~25 lb per hive (2012 = 8 lb, 2014 = 31 lb, 2017 = 24 lb, 2018 = 31 lb etc.), perhaps a little more. I don’t know what the commercials achieve, but my quoted ~10 kg per super was from weighing 23 of them before and after extraction this Spring where I averaged a bit less than 3 supers per hive. It was a good spring, but only 5-10% better than a couple of the other recent ones. My summer crop is more variable, and rarely exceeds the Spring, but usually isn’t too far behind.

      OSR is a bit of a mixed blessing. The honey can be a bit bland (but blends well, something I need to experiment more with) but is great on toast and porridge. The boost the bees get is invaluable though, so I’m pleased they have access to it.


  11. Phill Rogers

    Hi David. Thanks for the great post. Same results here in Norn Iron: great spring crop (extracted 10 Jun) – averaged 40lbs/colony. All colonies going great guns by 3rd week in Jun, plenty of filled super frames. So added more since I was away with work for a fortnight. When I came back in Jul, they’d munched the honey and across all the “summer”’supers I reckon (though am yet to extract) there’s probably 60lbs. Worse honey crop since I started 9 years ago.

    But QR has been good/great. Got over 20 Amm mated, so silver linings and all that.

    1. David Post author

      Hi Phill

      Yes … in years like this you have to look for the positives … such as the fact they didn’t all decide to swarm during the fortnight you were away for work 😉 The dependability of queen mating this year was way better than it was last season, something to be grateful for.

      I suppose it would all be a bit boring if we could depend on 30-50 kg per colony every season, split between early season and the summer.

      Or perhaps not 😉


  12. Graham

    In a perverse way, a reassuring article. Your experience mirrors mine way down here in Hampshire – one of the best spring crop I’ve ever had (which gas usually been less dependable) followed by one of the worse summer crops I’ve had (which is usually more dependable). An odd year. I’ll have to extract my own weather station data (also uploaded to the met office WoW site) to compare with the graphs you produced.

    1. David Post author

      Hi Graham

      Post an update here if you think your local weather is also to blame … of course, retrospectively, other than taking some satisfaction from understanding what went wrong, it doesn’t help us much for the future unless we can predict another poor season far enough in advance.

      Let’s look on the bright side … not too many jars to fill or labels to attach 😉


  13. Colette Deschenes

    Dear David,
    I follow your posts very regularly and want to thank you for all the wonderful, well researched information you provide… And seasoned with some humor to boot!… 😀
    Felt compelled to send a quick comment: the weather! the weather! the weather!!!
    Here, on the Central Coast of California, things have been going the opposite way: our spring harvest ended up equaling zero 😢 Crazy cold wet weather… On the other hand, the abundant winter and spring rains have “helped” many plants to produce pollen and nectar even in the summer, as they did 35 yrs ago, and the bees have been harvesting beautifully lately.
    We are looking forward to harvesting tomorrow!
    Take care and THANKS AGAIN SO MUCH for your hepful posts!

    1. David Post author

      Hi Colette

      Delighted you enjoy the posts and that you have some honey to harvest. Scottish beekeepers may still get some heather honey here if they’re lucky, but – after a bumper year for heather last year – it’s looking very patchy at the moment. However, if the harvest had been a record we’d have been complaining of bad backs or running out of boxes, so I guess one poor year every now and then gives us something else to complain about … and it means that next year, even if it’s just average, will feel great!

      Hope the harvesting went well 🙂


  14. DavidLee

    Oh, what a thought-provoking post! “Where did it all go wrong?” – a question that every beekeeper, from novices to seasoned veterans, has undoubtedly asked themselves at some point in their beekeeping journey.

    [Paragraphs of AI generated platitudes together with a carefully hidden advert link that contribute nothing to the discussion of the topic. I’m getting more and more of this cr@p and it’s making me completely question the point of allowing comments at all.]

    Thank you for sharing this reflective post. It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone in our beekeeping challenges, and together, we can support each other on this buzzing journey of discovery and stewardship. 🐝🍯🌼

    Deleted advert.

    [I strongly recommend BBwear suits and don’t under any circumstances consider Aus Armour or anything that sounds like that. If they write fake comments you can be sure that their products are poor.]

    Bold text are my edits. David

      1. David Post author

        Amazing … they followed up the ‘comment’ with an AI generated email offering to create a “valuable guest post” i.e. advert. Clearly they didn’t bother reading my response to the edited comment. Undoubtedly this would also be AI-generated and, going by the content I’ve seen and their website, almost totally worthless.

        Buy BBwear beesuits. I’ve used them my entire beekeeping ‘career’ and have been very satisfied with them. This isn’t an advert, it’s an end user recommendation.


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